The MLB NL East is so parity-laden that first place to the last place is separated by nine games. Suffice it to say, if any of these teams want to make the playoffs, they’ll need to win the division because they’re certainly not getting one of the Wild Cards.
Let’s look at another flawed weekend.
NEW YORK METS
The Mets salvaged a split of a four-game series with the Phillies. Realistically, they could have – and probably should have – gotten swept. Still, this has been the Mets’ story the entire season as they have overcome adversity and devastating injuries to climb into first place and stay four games ahead of the second-place Nationals. They travel to Washington for a makeup game Monday night. After the game in Washington, they travel to Atlanta for three games and then back “home” for three games at Yankee Stadium.
Even with the return of Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, as a team, they’re still not hitting and they’re certainly not scoring. Brandon Nimmo is expected back Tuesday. J.D Davis will start a rehab assignment Wednesday.
Pete Alonso is confident that they’ll start hitting. Given the schedule this week, they’d better.
"I don't think there's any panic or rush or anxiousness at all." Pete Alonso says the Mets' offense is about to click: pic.twitter.com/VkQLcqwxFA — Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 27, 2021
The Nationals had a chance to gain on the Mets had they done better than a split of four games with the last-place Marlins. Trea Turner has been excellent all season, Kyle Schwarber is still scorching and Josh Bell is heating up.
Josh Bell is hitting .298 since May 13. He has 8 HR and 24 RBIs in 37 games (31 starts) over that stretch.@JBell_19 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/MrDHpdz8Hx — Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 27, 2021
They may regret not getting at least three from the Marlins as their schedule is hellish for the next month. This week, they’re at home for the makeup game with the Mets, two games with the Rays, then four with the Dodgers.
Erick Fedde was slated to start against the Mets but was placed on the injured list with an oblique issue. Their starter is to be determined. Stephen Strasburg threw off a mound Sunday as he recovers from a neck injury and he will be needed. Shortness in the rotation will be an issue in the coming weeks.
The Braves also could have gained on the Mets had they done more than split with the Reds.
Fortunately for the Braves, Ronald Acuna Jr. returned to the lineup after missing two games with lower back soreness. In Sunday’s 4-0 win, he homered and doubled to support rookie Kyle Muller. Muller pitched five scoreless innings.
.@ronaldacunajr24's 117.4 MPH HR is the hardest-hit batted ball ever tracked by Statcast for a @Braves player! pic.twitter.com/R6U2TRLXJ7 — MLB Stats (@MLBStats) June 27, 2021
The Braves have a three-game series with the Mets in Atlanta this week. They moved Charlie Morton back so he could open the series. With each passing day and the overwhelming likelihood that they’ve seen the last of Marcell Ozuna for the rest of the season, it becomes increasingly obvious that they’re going to need an outfield bat if they intend to make a run.
If the Phillies had a halfway decent bullpen, they could have swept the Mets. Then again, if they had a halfway decent bullpen, they’d likely be in first place themselves. Instead, they’re three games under .500 and five games out of first place. Given the litany of problems they’ve had and will presumably continue to have in their current circumstances, they’re lucky to be that close.
Manager Joe Girardi has made some head-scratching maneuvers like letting Saturday’s starter Zack Eflin bat (understandably to bunt) with a 1-0 lead, allow him to walk out to the mound and, when McNeil was announced as a pinch hitter, then take him out for Ranger Suarez. Suarez struck out McNeil, then surrendered a game-tying home run to Kevin Pillar. They lost on a walk-off.
Even with all the problems they’ve had, the fundamental issue is fundamentals itself.
They’re not good at baseball. “Top” prospect Alec Bohm can’t catch a pop-up and Rhys Hoskins plays first base like he’s wearing boxing gloves. These are two of a host of other examples of poor execution. This is unlikely to get better in the near term and members of the Phillies TV media have had enough.
"These guys are disgraces to their position."@MBarkannNBCS pulled no punches on another Phillies collapse: pic.twitter.com/8LeuJOHIDh — NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) June 26, 2021
They have a makeup game Monday in Cincinnati against the Reds, then return home for three with the Marlins.